Sometimes I can’t find God. He’s always there, but I’ve been churched so long, theologized so much, seminarred so often, sanitized, holyfied, studified and Sundayfied so thoroughly that the goal of a pure childlike faith feels like mere rhetoric. Mosquito spit in a dry sky. But every so often I’m reminded how to get it back.
Lacey* (assumed name) was five at the time. I’d stopped by her house to pick something up. While standing in the hall I noticed a striking picture; a black and white sketch of a man in what seemed biblical garb, seated on a rock beside a rushing stream. Overhead, the spreading branches of a leafy tree bent low in an almost protective gesture.
“Do you notice anything unusual about that picture?” Lacey’s mother asked.
I looked more carefully. Man, stream, rock, tree. “No. What should I look for? Something hidden?”
She nodded. “Jesus’ face is in the tree.” She offered to show me, but I wanted to find it on my own. I searched the print until my head ached. Studied the artist’s lines. Examined the shading for clues. Got closer. Backed up. Nothing.
I opened my mouth to admit defeat when Lacey, standing shyly behind me, spoke up. “I dan dee it dum down he-ah. I dink do dould det down.” (I adored her abundance of D’s.) I’m often hopeless at grasping the abstract; whether in matters of faith or substance, but I crouched beside her. Just to prove I was serious about trying.
As I looked up at the picture, suddenly what had been invisible while standing upright came clearly into focus: the profile of Christ in the leafy overhanging branches, his gaze fixed lovingly on the figure seated below.
“I see it! I see it!” I nearly shouted in excitement. I may have even bounced a bit.
Lacey pointed her chin at the floor, drew a circle on the hardwood with her bare toe. “I dold do do det down,” she said.
Over the years I’ve thought of Lacey’s advice often. It echoes Paul’s words to the conflicted, sometimes arrogant Corinthian church. “For God, in his wisdom, saw to it that He would never be found through human brilliance.....” And Jesus’ words, “Except you become as a small child, you can’t enter Heaven…”
Each time my mind, so full of right answers and correct theology, loses it grasp on peace, I know it’s time to ‘det down.’ Low. As low as a child is small, I can look up and see, fixed on me in love, the gaze of Christ.
For me that includes revisiting the basics of life and faith. Finding satisfaction in simplicity. Disconnecting from things that unnecessarily set my heart and mind at odds. Nurturing straightforward relationships with others, especially children, seniors and pets. Rediscovering the joy of tactile, rather than ephemeral accomplishment. Getting outside daily. Praying more, not less. Reading God’s word more than others’ words about God’s word.
Have you lost sight of Jesus’ face? Are you searching for God? He’s seeking you even more. Just... “det down.” But look up.